Friday, 28 December 2007

Priceless FGW ineptitude

From the BBC:

I almost laughed out loud.


What a relief

I have had all this week off and will have most of next as well. This is just lovely.

I am not at the mercy of FGW until late next week - I am approaching a state of happiness that I have not felt since the birth of my daughter.

I was watching the Bourne Ultimatum last night (spot the Christmas present). It was one of those action moments when Bourne is in a station and the train departs at just the right moment for the baddy to get away.

This would never happen in the UK. There would be enough time for Bourne to grab the baddy off the train, beat him to a pulp and walk away into the crowds.

What a perfect excuse for FGW to say that the train was late - a "Customer Incident" they would doubtless call it.

Anyway, enough of that for the moment. Back to the mince pies and so on.


Friday, 21 December 2007

Home for Christmas

I have made it home tonight on a train that was on time!! What a lovely present. Journey was punctuated by frantically annoying woman on mobile phone - usual story - no sense of the volume of her voice of how pretentious she sounded to everyone else. Stabbed her to keep her quiet.....

Decided to provide a moment of excitement by displaying my favourite socks that I wear to work on "power days" - i.e. those days when my motivation is at such a low ebb that I need something to lift me from the general malaise.

Happy Christmas and thanks to those people I have come across recently who have linked to this blog - I will ensure I reciprocate and thus build up our community of FGW opposition.


Thursday, 20 December 2007

A genuinely new experience

I arrived at the station this morning and saw, as I wandered past the booking office in an aimless fashion, that the train was on time. I actually had to walk quickly across the footbridge to catch it - it literally arrived as I stepped on to the platform - great timing.

The "train manager" came on the tannoy (she actually knew how to use it without it feeding back or distorting - a rare treat) and over the course of the journey, thanked us all for "managing to close the doors behind us because this really does help keep the train on time". Nearly laughed out loud (thus breaking rule 10, subsection 3.1 of the Commuter Etiquette Code which reads:"under no circumstance should any passenger show any emotion even if he or she is in the depths of depression and despair or the heights of joy and ambition."

The irony is that the train was really quiet today. This goes to prove my understanding and indeed FGW's understanding or the railways - This railway would always run on time if it weren't for the passengers.

Or more literally translated: It's not the fault of FGW that the trains are late. It's the customers who don't shut the doors that delay the trains.
Damn these customers..

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

A Christmas Update on my favourite characters

Those of you who are regular readers will be familiar with some of my fellow commuters. I am aware I have mentioned them less as my anger at FGW has increased. So here goes:

Visaman - still commuting with me. He brought his son with him the other day. I don't mind saying that this young lad has the most extraordinary hair - it had it's own gravitation pull and everything. Very nice chap and polite. So we'll forgive the hair.

Teaman - I see him more on the way home now and I think he's forgiven me for putting milk in my Earl Gray.

Trainman - The encyclopedia of railways. He now gets a different line which apparantly arrives early in London on regular occasions. Just watch his fare go up!

Tallman - still tall.

"Hermione" - the one that doesn't speak. Well actually she spoke to me the other day - to say thanks for holding the door for her.

Roy Harley the train manager - I think he's been redeployed which is a shame as I enjoyed his witty banter in the morning.

I think that's it - what a jolly crew.

Selective Door Opening

Those of us that travel regularly on lines that have stations with short platforms will now be familiar with a new sight on FGW.

Since the new Selective Door Opening mechanism was introduced, the quality of announcements from the "Train Manager" has gone down and we have been greeted by the sight of a harrassed looking shopper or an inattentive commuter having to run fast down the train over the various hurdles left in the aisle in case of such a calamity.

I think they've all made it so far but there is this sense of panic that is transmitted when the person realises that the sadistic "Train Manager" has not opened all the doors because, quite rightly, there is no platform next to some of the train. The panic is not that they will miss their stop and have to get off later.


It's the panic at having to spend another minute on board an FGW train.

Still, my sadistic mind finds it funny until the moment that is happens to me.


Thursday, 13 December 2007

A different bit

A colleague of mine related the following story which goes to re-enforce all of my opinions and thoughts about FGW:

Travelling from Reading to Slough I caught an HST which promised faithfully that it would be calling at Slough and London Paddington. About 14 mins after the train left Reading, it started to brake quite hard and I looked up, out of the window to see Slough Station sailing past at about 100 mph. I also saw lots of people waiting on the platform and panicked faces of my fellow passengers who also wished to alight there.
The "Train Manager" was seen to make his way through the carriage talking quickly into his phone - presumably to the driver. 5 mins later there followed an announcement that the train had not stopped at Slough due to a security alert.
There are a number of problems with this explanation:
1. During a security alert, people have to leave stations, they do not stay on the platform.
2. During a security alert, trains are not allowed to carry on through the station.
3. The train had already started slowing down.
4. There were people waiting for the train to arrive.
So, a bunch of lies by the look of it.
The truth later came out - apparantly it was a trainee driver who forgot about Slough. He is now the talking point of the entire network.
What I can't believe is that they lied about it when they'd made the cock up. Gives you an insight into the way these people think and why their service is as bad as it is.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Petition for the Cotswold Line

As you know, I am constantly complaining to FGW about their lack of service, slovenly staff and ill-informed decisions.

Recently the "Selective Door Opening" has caused all kinds of problems on the train - a proper nightmare - people getting stuck in carriages etc made worse by the fact that the FGW staff clearly do not know how to use a tannoy system without making it:

a) feedback
b) distort so it sounds like you're on Mars.

Now someone has started a petition - Mr Richard Fairhurst. So if you use this line and are getting stitched up the same way as I am, please give this some attention.

Also see: for anger even greater than mine.

That's all I'm saying....

A different subject - calming down a bit...

I've noticed that my posts have again become angry and somewhat personalised in terms of the people I mention.. So I've decided to be nice again...

I was looking at the BBC website today and I saw a video that has been made by the American President as part of his Christmas message.

I watched open mouthed as the whole Bush family took part in what can only be described as a pantomime. Even worse that idiot Blair shows up in it as well.

I am lost for words... So I'm going to go and hide under the bed until Fraulein Clinton comes to power.... God help us all.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Oh what a week

It's been a bit of a nightmare this week. I will get very specific and nasty about something in my next post but this one is dedicated to the shower at First Great Western. I would call them "The Shonks" but that title uniquely belongs to another company that shall remain nameless.... for the moment.

Below is a copy of my email to FGW customer services. You will note my angry tone - try if you will to imagine my tone of voice etc when reading this:

"Further to my email below I have again suffered the same fate on my way home from work:
The 16:53 from Reading was delayed but about 20 mins. I asked platform staff at Reading if they would phone ahead to ask if the connecting train to kingham etc. could be held. This was met with a blank refusal and an admonishment that the connection would never be held this long. Not exactly a world class customer service solution.

I arrived at Oxford and found that in face the connecting train had been cancelled. I then spent another significant period of time enjoying the limited delights of Oxford station (a cup of tea).

The 1821 train arrived (late) and finally delivered me to Kingham station at 7pm ish. I'm sorry that I can't remember the exact time but I was in a rush to get home having wasted my time at Oxford and indeed Reading.

This is the 2nd time this week the train has been seriously disrupted.

However, I feel bound to point out that the train has not been on time ONCE in the last week - either on the way to or the way from work. You can view this a 100% failure of FGW to run a world class train service.

I look forward to hearing from you in terms of both an explanation and a suggestion as to what compensation you will offer.

Best regards"

Note the ironic best regards which really means "I want to hurt you".


Sunday, 2 December 2007

Last Friday Night

What a debacle..

I caught the early train home in an effort to spend a bit of time in the house before going out for a fantastic dinner engagement.

I knew my plans were holed below the water line when I got to the station and saw the sight that all commuters on a Friday night dread to see:

An overcrowded platform with passengers crowded round members of staff and the tv monitors desperate in their quest for information about a train (or other mode of transport not excluding horses) that will convey them to their accommodation for the night.

It's like a cold hand reaches into your chest and clutches at your still beating heart and then attempts to make you give up there and then. Only the bravest carry on.

Train after train was delayed including mine which, when it did arrive, dramatically changed it's destination literally as the train arrived on the platform. Instead of taking us via our usual route, we were flung towards the hateful town of Swindon (sorry) and then told to get off because there would be buses to take us to our stations where we foolishly had parked our cars.
Tall man and I managed to bump into each other at Swindon and, with 3 others, ended up hiring a black cab to take us to Kingham. I should point out that we tried a number of mini-cabs who all responded:
"Wherrreeee??? Kinghammmmmm? Never 'eard of thaaaat. We don't go beyond Wiltshire boarders".
This resulted in a colourful bout of swearing from tall man who was also getting soaked by the torrential rain that was throwing it down just to make sure we were really uncomfortable.
In contrast to the previous occasion when a freight train broke down near Oxford, FGW staff were next to useless. The woman who was meant to have organised the buses started having an argument with the bus driver that had actually shown up and it all went very wrong very quickly.
Anyway, one £80 cab fare later and we were sorted. Only got home an hour and half late..... no thanks to FGW.

Great Trousers!!!

I had to change trains at Oxford the other day. I had the fortune to walk behind this fellow wearing the most retinally exciting coloured cords I have seen. Apologies for the picture quality.
I could never get away with that.
I am also amused by the way the vivid colours that adourn Oxford station clash with the trousers.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007


Was highly suprised to see the gentleman shown below on the train this morning - got into my carriage as well. Didn't bother speaking to him though as he is a liberal, namby pamby, commie loving, ex member of the SAS who can probably pan my head in.

A friend of mine (Hitchmo) said that with the number of politicians I meet, I should consider these incidents as more than chance and that perhaps I am meant to be in politics.

Happy never to have met a labour MP as I would probably have to wash my hands with bleach.


Tall Man

I was amused the other morning - was chatting to Tall man (previously referred to as ridiculously tall good looking man)... He'd just tried to pay for his car parking using the "RINGO" service where you phone up a laptop in India and type or speak various details in.

This service is a pain at the best of times. But you can imagine Tall man's anger when his credit card got rejected by the Indian Laptop.. F****** thing, F****** to*****s etc etc. Never seen him quite so angry - I took an involuntary step back.

He's always so calm and collected normally... I ventured to mention the incident to him today and he was still seething...


Tuesday, 27 November 2007


Had to go to Edinburgh today. Jolly good meetings and dinner with old friend. However, there was a part of my travel that got on my wick....

The announcements.

They go on for ever.

It's worse than the train.

On one short flight from Edinburgh to Birmingham we had:

1) By cabin crew - Welcome aboard
2) Flight deck - Welcome aboard, blah blah, please pay special attention to the safety instructions that the cabin crew are, in a bored, humiliating and frankly unnecessary way, about to demonstrate for you.
3) Recorded. The actual safety instructions including which cavity to insert your sodding blackberry into.
4) Cabin Crew. Keep your seatbelts on.
5) Cabin Crew. Announcement about drinks and sandwiches trolley from which you can BUY stuff.
6) Cabin Crew. Announcement about the special stuff you can buy at "extra special prices" on board (or is that bored).
7) Cabin Crew - Customer feedback forms.
8) Flight Deck - where we are - somewhere above Manchester - who cares. At least we don't have to go there.
9) Flight Deck - 10 mins to landing
10) Cabin crew - fasten your seat belts
11) Cabin crew - please remain in your seats until.... blah blah blah, death.
12) Flight deck - slight delay - external power hook up.
13) Cabin crew - we've opened both front and rear doors.



Monday, 26 November 2007

The Projects Director - FGW

Well the day finally arrived when I had my appointment with Matthew Golton who is the Projects Director of FGW. We had arranged to meet on the train at Charlbury where he would be joining the train.

True to his word, as the train began to pull out of Charlbury, my telephone rang (embarrassing Nokia sound which I have since changed) and Mr Golton and I met up. I was escorted to 1st class and treated to a cup of tea and offers of just about anything I could eat.

We had a chat about the future of the line we use - in particular the option of rebuilding parts of the track so that there are less delays on the line.

The options seem to be:

1) Addition of track at the junction just north of Oxford and the upgrading of some goods lines to passenger standard (I never knew there was a difference - surely railway is railway...)

2) More track at another squeeze point near Moreton in Marsh.

3) The upgrading of the mainline track from Paddington to Didcot so that the slow tracks can cope with trains up to 90mph...
This move would include the upgrading of signalling to allow trains to run a bit closer and for there to be a single control centre in Didcot for a large portion of the country - more akin to air traffic control than an old style signal box.

A number of interesting facts emerged from our conversation:

1) The track out of Paddington to Reading has 25% of the country's suicides committed on it.. (Those that are done by jumping in front of trains....)

2) It costs about £3m for 1 mile of track.

3) A platform costs about £1m (but could be much more).

4) It will take until 2013 for all these upgrades to be completed.

5) The final iteration of signalling for trains - that is train to train transmission and proper aircraft type control will probably only be in place by 2035.

I intend to have retired by then.

Anyway. Matthew is a jolly nice chap and seems open to having sensible conversations. I was very amused by the reaction of all the FGW staff to Matthew - basically they couldn't do enough for us - literally falling over themselves to be nice. Every time a new member of staff saw Matthew, they would say "good morning sir". Hilarious. If only I had that sort of influence. .... The the world would be MINE. ALL MINE.

Train man - you'd have been in heaven with all the talk of extra sets of points and interlocking sleepers with a wide sweep round the corner...


Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Sick note

For the 3rd time in 6 months I have found myself not well enough to go to work. This is very out of character and I used to pride myself on having the constitution of an ox. No longer the case by the feel of things.

I managed to get home last night (although I'm not sure how) and went straight to bed for sleep and recovery. Woke up about 10pm and was very very sick... Felt immediately better and went out clubbing.


Now, I am tempted to blame all these episodes of sickness on our friends at FGW. Their infection incubation machines (also known as carriages) must surely contribute to commuter malady.. Here are some of the criteria needed to spread infection:

  • Overcrowding
  • Hermetically sealed environment
  • No fresh air
  • Filtered windows to prevent sunlight
  • Over-heating

All of these perfectly describe an FGW train. I feel ill just talking about it.

Sadly I can't blame this on FGW as I suspect the Cumberland Sausage I had at lunch was to blame. I checked with one of my colleagues and he reported similar effects.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Planes are no better

I had to go to Glasgow on Monday to see a client. Usual nonsense about getting up at 6am, get to the airport, check in and then look at the screen to find that my plane is delayed....

Now you may think that I would be well used to transport being late. In this country we really take the concept of "late" to a new level. In fact we are so often late (for work, social engagements etc) that people are suprised if you show up on time and very often aren't ready for you.

Anyway, check this out for a new excuse.. "Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, Captain Jeff speaking. Sorry about the delay this morning. This was due to ground staff in Glasgow taking a long time to defrost the plane"....
I defy FGW to try that one. In the end I got to my meeting 16 minutes late - but that was only because I had allowed an hour to get from the airport to the office which I knew was a long time.

Can't rely on anyone these days.
Silly picture of Glagow airside from my window.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

A different mode of transport

Once again I will be deserting the train for a more elevated form of transport. I am flying to Glasgow tomorrow.

I'm not sure how this form of commute will compare with FGW but I will provide a full report. My only hope is that the plane does not fly in reverse formation like it's land based cousin.

Another point to mention - since my tirade of emails to the CEO of FGW, I have now arranged a meeting with the projects director of FGW on 26th November. This will happen on the train.

Any suggestions as to what I should say are welcome.


Thursday, 8 November 2007

From Oxford

The little chuffer train I take home some days was waiting obediently for me at Oxford and off we went. The train manager came on the tannoy and apologised for the toilet being locked as it was in a "disgusting state"!
Apparantly they had the choice of either locking the toilet or cancelling the train..... Seemed a bit draconian but there we go.

2 thoughts entered my head:

1) What sort of filthy disgusting person trashes a public toilet - it's actually quite difficult to do unless you are really very very ill - as in so ill you can't leave the house so how come you're on the train.... ok, probably 1000s of reasons but I just can't stand the way that some people seem to treat public lavatories.

2) I really felt sorry for the bloke standing outside the toilet with his legs crossed and looking as if he was in a state of some desperation. In addition, he missed the announcement about the toilet so he was really struggling when I told him...

Ho hum.


Good things

I wonder if I will be less concerned with the train timings I I notice nice things out of the window (when it's light).

This morning, I happened to look up from my laptop (writing presentation on.,.. oh never mind) and saw 2 deer in the field right next to the train.

They looked so unconcerned by everything - just a lovely sight with the autumn leaves around them. It warms the heart and makes me think of nice weekends at Mummy and Daddy's place in the country.

As an amusing aside, I was talking to Tall Man, Visaman and Greenjacketman (who Visaman says should be called "Royal Greenjacket" and I agree) about the impending meeting with representatives from FGW and Royal Greenjacket mentioned something about the annoyance of having the train stop at Didcot Parkway. It used not to do this apparently. Anyway, the Royal Greenjacket went on to say that " a different type of person gets on the train at Didcot.. They're not like us." Nearly cried I was laughing so much. I've met someone who's politics are on the right of mine. Incidentally I asked him to describe the people who get on the train at Didcot - he said "you know who I mean".

You can safely assume he was referring to the tracksuit wearing, trainer attired, baseball hatted youths. (Also known as chavs).


Tuesday, 6 November 2007

A Response!

Having vented at the Chief Exec of FGW I am pleased to have had a response!!! See below... I sense that perhaps he didn't catch some of the barbs in my email to him but he seems like a decent fellow.

Dear Mr Hogg,

Thank you for your email and for your supportive comments which I shall pass on to the team at Swindon. I am sorry that your journey was badly disrupted.

The freight train failure tonight sat down right across the junction north of Oxford which prevented any movements to or from the Kingham line so in this case track doubling would have had no impact. However I met with Network Rail this afternoon coincidentally to continue to press the case for the doubling. The new Route Director is a supporter and the scheme is included in the NetworkRail Strategic Business Plan, published last Friday for the 5 year period from 1/4/09.

The key now is to progress with the development work and business case and I have appointed a projects director Matthew Golton to work with Network Rail on facilitating these schemes.

Best wishes

Andrew Haines

Monday, 5 November 2007


Oh the trains. RUBBISH.

I have this evening had yet another unique experience of FGW (the train company). Apparently there has been a train failure in the "Oxford area" which has led to my train being diverted via Swansea (well Swindon) and I am, as I type, in the back of a cab with 5 strangers and my boss as we make our way towards Kingham. The driver has already confessed that he has no idea where he is going. All jolly good fun really. I hope none of my fellow passengers are murderers, otherwise we'll all end up going the way of the squirrel in my previous story.

Trainman - I know you will be delighted to hear about this and will no doubt gloat at the Germanic efficiency of your run into London / Berlin. “Zer ar alvays plans JA?”

Visaman - you lucky git, you missed the excitement.

Lox - try getting my train one day. You'll learn what pain is.

Anyway, to end this otherwise negative rant, I thought I would amuse you with what Collyn the train manager said on the (late) 07.18 this morning:

Usual announcements about where we are going blah blah and then, when referring to the train, "SHE is booked to arrive at London Paddington at 08:45". Hang on a sec Collyn. It's a chuffing train not an ocean going liner. Maybe when you've spent that much time on the train you start to get an emotional attachment to the thing.


Sunday, 4 November 2007

The death of a Squirrel

I have a confession to make.

I was running late on Friday because:

1) I just could not be bothered to leave the house
2) Coudn't find a fiver that I knew was knocking around somewhere
3) Was having a clothing crisis and couldn't work out what to wear - get over yourself I hear you cry.

Anyway, I left the house with only 33 minutes to reach the station, park, get a car park ticket, leg it over the footbridge, engage in 5 minutes of witty banter with Tallman, Visaman, Greenjacketman and catch the train. (Incidentally, Greenjacketman is a very nice chap who has been doing the journey to London for 17 years. He has a very dry and amusing way about him).

Suffice to say I drove the car like it was stolen... although with strict adherence to all traffic regulations. On approach to a rather sharp left hand turn, I was braking and changing gears, getting ready to pull up the handbrake in a perfect rally driver manoeuvre when.... a squirrel crossed my path.

Unable to do anything other than make the turn the squirrel found it's way under the car and met with a wheel or 2. Nasty knocking noise from under the vehicle for a second or 2 and then nothing.
Mentioned this to Greenjacketman at the station who told me that they're all rats anyway and therefore count as vermin.

Caught the train, forgot to buy a ticket for the car park and got away with it anyway.


Thursday, 1 November 2007

Complaint letter to Last Worst Western

Ohhh. I needed to vent so much.

Copy of email sent to Cheif Exec of 1st Great Western..

Dear Mr Haines
Forgive my rantings below but I felt the need to bring a number of issues to your attention.
I am a regular commuter on the line between Kingham and Reading. I have an annual season ticket which I imagined at the time of purchase, would be a wise money and time saving purchase.

Unfortunately the service I use struggles to maintain an even vague adherence to the published timetable. In the last 2 weeks, the 07.18 from Kingham to London Paddington has been on time precisely once. I am forced to catch this train as it is the one the (according to published
timetables) gets me to Reading for 08.18 and then to my office for 08.30 I would catch a train from somewhere closer to home but the price of this is so prohibitive that even I (and I am reasonably paid) cannot afford it.

Due to the persistent lateness of the service, I am rarely in the office before 08.45 My job requires a certain level of commitment from me which includes a certain number of hours. In order to catch the 07.18, I raise myself from my slumber at 0600 hours and make myself ready for the day ahead, generally leaving the house by 0635 hours and arriving at the station at about 0710 hours.

You can then imagine my frustration when on a habitual basis, the train is more than 5 mins, often 10 mins and sometimes 20 mins late. This is time I would happily spend in bed rather than standing on a cold platform waiting for a train to come. When it does finally turn up, there is a string of excuses as to why the train is late, none of them satisfactory.

The return journey is worse.

I catch a variety of trains to get home - either the 1622 from Reading or the 1653 (change at Oxford) or the 1750. The 1622 is often late but I generally get a seat, The 1653 is almost never the advertised Adelante service but a 2 or 3 carriage turbo that has been yanked out of Royal Oak and pressed in to service. This makes for what can at best be described as an intimate journey with my fellow passengers.

The 1750 is a nonsense. It is always overcrowded (at least as far as
Oxford) with many people standing in the aisles and squashed into the "verstibule areas" (aka cattle class). This train is never on time. As I write, my fellow passengers are regailing me with stories of late service and uncomfortable conditions.

I can't help wondering whether these problems could be resolved by adopting a slightly less risk averse approach to Health and Safety - in my mind you could probably run trains closer together on the track and make them longer. In addition, Network Rail seems to treat timetables as more of a suggestion than a reliable service. This really can't be allowed to continue.

I understand that it is a very difficult job to try and run the trains on time but it would help if the trains left on time as a starter...

I do appreciate that these changes cost money and your organisation has probably suffered from generations of under investment but I sense that if many of your staff were to feel the commercial reality of working outside the rail industry, they might have a different attitude to the way in which they run the railways.

I look forward to hearing your responses to this and seeing the network improve.

Best regards


Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Is that seat free?

Lox mentioned in one of his responses the thorny issue of how to keep the seat next to you empty.

Many of us that travel the railways will at one point or another just want a bit of space rather than sitting next to someone you don't know and be forced to actually touch another member of the human race... Imagine the horror as someone sits down next to you and either:

a) sits on the bit of your coat that has accidentally on purpose been left on the other seat
b) actually is large enough (as I am) to wedge themselves into the seat forcing your thighs to be in such close proximity that they are touching...

There are then a variety of methods for keeping the seat next to you free...

1) Place an additional bag on the seat and tell anyone that asks that the person has just popped to the loo in a bit of a rush.

2) Get tattoos of things like daggers and pagan sacrifices on your forearms and up your neck. Add to this a menacing look that tells everyone you eat human flesh for breakfast lunch and tea.

3) Adopt the "I'm too posh to sit next to anyone" look which is instantly unnerving but not always guaranteed to succeed.

4) Put a copy of the sexual offenders register on the seat next to you with a pen on top of it as if ready to sign...

5) Start talking about Jesus in a loud voice.

There is also the other side of this where we all know we pack ourselves into sardine can like trains and every bit of space is precious.
It is therefore unacceptable for anyone to grunt at the polite enquiry as to the status of the adjacent seat "Yeah, I s'pose so". Have some manners.. Unless you are using any of the 5 methods described earlier..


Monday, 29 October 2007

Delight at Etiquette

Regular and long term readers will know of my appreciation of Commuter Etiquette.

I had the fortune to sit opposite a very nice lady on my way home today. At one point on the journey she addressed me and enquired (in a very nice voice) where I would like to stretch my legs under the table so that she could put hers the other way.

Fantastic. This is exactly the co-operation we need in order to deal with the hot, over-crowded, ill mannered and late First (Last) Great (Worst) Western. Later on we entered into a discussion about the dreadful new coaches which, due to their tinted glass, makes it even more depressing on the way home because it's soooooo dark you think you are in the pit of hell or somewhere... (making the wild assumption that Hell is indeed a dark place.... and I think it is... except for the burning sulpher.....ok enough.)

I was also pleased to be able to pass out this blog address to her as well - so if you've found it, welcome - I hope this drivel is not too irritating... And thanks for the legroom.


Thursday, 25 October 2007

Overheard conversations and solution MP3

So... I was on the train on the way home tonight - caught the early one on account of... well couldn't be bothered.

There was a lady about 2 seats away from me who proceeded to have quite a personal conversation at quite an astounding volume. Now, before I incur the wrath of anyone reading this, I am not about to have a go at this woman like I did that other one a few weeks ago who was pleased to tell everyone how great her life is..

I genuinely tried not to listen to this conversation - and I really wanted to be sympathetic but she was talking loudly about a relative who had sadly passed away and who had the left the specific instruction that she should have an "Eco-funeral". What is this pray tell? Well... cardboard coffin, no undertakers etc etc. Conversation followed about how on earth you organise something like this..... "I don't know what to do - you can't go to the hospital with a hired transit van and pick up the body..." Wanted to shout with all my might "GOOGLE IT" but instead plugged in my MP3 player and fantasized about being Jack Bauer.

New Staff

There was considerable excitement at the station this morning as the area manager for Last Worst Western was on the platform talking to passengers. Sadly she didn't get as far as me as she was enduring a grilling from another passenger. I did over hear that the woman actually uses the train - from Cheltenham to London - and as a result is fully understanding of the trials and tribulations of us passengers. Not a very good way to manage the railway though is it? Trying to empathise when you're in senior management and can actually do something about the problem? The one thing this did actually prove is that the woman exists - I've only seen pictures of her on the notice boards before and made the assumption that she wasn'treal.

Another feature of the train in the last few weeks has been the addition of cleaning staff - I am guessing this has something to do with a quick turnaround for trains at Paddington - on our train they have employed a lovely African lady who stands at the end of a carriage and announces in a loud voice "GOOD MORNING EVERYBODY..... (pause)...... RUBBISH PLEASE". I've got used to it now but when she first did it, I was sleeping about 2 feet away from the door and jumped out of my skin spraying tea and laptop across the train. Not a good look when you've managed to appear neat and tidy and very "City" up to that point. The rest of the passengers pointed and laughed at me (although not out loud and without the actual pointing).

Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Those of you who have read this blog for a while may remember TeaMan from the earlier days. He's the one that drinks lemon and ginger tea and was slightly disappointed with me for having milk in my earl grey.

Anyway, I saw him yesterday and related the story of the lost thermos flask (I left it on the train a few weeks ago. I often think of it languishing in some lost property cupboard in Paddington all on it's own in the dark....Alternatively, a train manager may have given it a good home and even now it may be travelling the UK's rail network giving faithful service to another tea lover.....)

Anyway, TeaMan was very sympathetic but did point out in a somewheremercenary manner that another flask can be purchased very cheaply at a number of outlets. So I now (thanks to my long suffering wife) have another flask and I am once again enjoying Earl grey on the way to work.

The balance of the cosmos is restored. Crisis over.


Winter warmers

The unfeasibly tall, good looking man (who went to see the Rugby in Paris last weekend) was at the station this morning. He was wearing a very amusing knitted head warming kind of arrangement (pretty patterns etc). It covered his whole head with little flaps coming down over his ears. He was also wearing a jumper under his suit. But no overcoat even though it was 0 Degrees on the platform this morning.

The thing is, he actually carries it off. He just looks cool. I don't know how he does it but I do know that if I tried it, my dear wife would collapse in howls of laughter (such is her way of giving me feedback).

As an aside, you may be interested to hear that some member of our little community decided to share all their germs with us by sneezing very loudly and lavishly in the hermitically sealed carriage. They must be punished. With Sudafed. Does he not know that any display of spontaneity is strictly forbidden by the Commuters Code of Etiquette, Chapter 3, Sub-Section 7, Para 4 "Any spontaneous activity, whether voluntary or involuntary is strictly forbidden and individuals should first consider an unpleasant death before disturbing their fellow commuters (who will studiously ignore the plight of the individual concerned even if they are lying on the floor whimpering "help me").

Beautiful dawn this morning (isn't that a song?). Wished a had the presence of mind to capture it on my camera.


Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Sign of big earnings?

I have been wondering whether where you stand on the station platform is an indicator either of how much money you earn or how important you think you are... I know that this is a major taboo and that discussing salaries is a major no-no in this country (although if you go to America, you are almost required to tell people I understand).

At my station, the 1st class carriages end up alongside the platform at the end beyond the footbridge. My suspicion is that you have to earn above a certain amount to be able to stand in this area (or at least have an inflated sense of their own importance). In fact, I believe there is a special club you have to be in to even venture beyond the footbridge. Passes are checked and special handshakes exchanged.

So here's my theory. In carriages A - E (assuming the classic InterCity 125 HST) there is a general mixture of people earning between say £0k and £70k. If you go beyond £70K you are automatically diverted to the 1st class end of the station and initiated into a club. These people will generally wear an expression of bored harassment. (an oxymoron if ever there was one).I believe there is a link here with the Blackberry rule I mentioned a week or so ago. I should point out that I am definitely in the standard class accommodation...

Now, onto more important things... Did anyone see Spooks last night? Did it feel like it was dredging the barrel a bit in terms of plot line? Still good to watch of course but it seems poorer to me since the loss of the GCHQ woman in the last series...?

Comments and feedback are required.


Tuesday, 16 October 2007

People Still Care

Train was late AGAIN today. It was raining and we all got wet. Goodlooking tall man was there today and mentioned on a number of occasions that he has the day off on Friday and he is going to Paris.... This makes me angry as he is going to the Rugby World Cup final. I took my revenge by splashing him with a puddle and then stealing his lunch and throwing his bag into the bushes.

When on the train a nice little family got on the train and were immediately separated by the selfishness of regular commuters - i.e. get a seat with a spare one next to it so that you can have your own space - sadly for the little family they were forced to sit apart from each other as they got on the train too late. However, a nice business man in a suit turned to the father and said "would you like to swap seats so you can sit with your daughter". Lovely. Felt a bit embarrassed not to have done the offering myself.

Anyway, for the rest of the journey they read their books and behaved very nicely indeed - unlike the St Edwards children at the end of the carriage who behaved in their usual manner and showed absolutely no respect for their fellow travellers, They are old enough to know better.


Monday, 15 October 2007

What people wear

Years ago when my father commuted into London there was a very strict dress code as to what commuters would wear. This was probably dictated by their jobs rather than the commute but there are some interesting observations that can be made:

1) Normally suited people - variety of jobs but probably finance or some such industry

2) Casual wear - but clearly on way to work. These people probably work in advertising or some really cool web development company.

3) Uniform - pretty obvious what they do. However, there was a chap this morning who dresses in a way I really admire - he wears a suit like me and I have commented before on his socks which were fantastic. But today he was wearing a very nice pin stripe suit with a mustard yellow jumper underneath. I wish I had the guts to that. It's just so different and loud. Anyway, he looked like he works in the city..

Train was very late today. The children at the end of the carriage (the ones that get off at Oxford) were very noisy.

It was dark when I got up and it'll be dark when I get home.
The train was full.

Friday, 12 October 2007


A prolific commenter on this blog, Lox has made a number of highly amusing points here. I particularly enjoyed his comments about WWJD and WWJBD.

Those of you who know me will know of my admiration for Jack Bauer (although not so much the drink driving actor).

Lox, I think with reference to the posh lady getting stuck at Stonehouse, Jack would have pushed her out of any old door and the gone to her family explaining that he "is sorry for their loss but he needs them to focus on the primary objective right now..."

Looking forward to seeing season 7. Keep the posts coming.


Another part of the journey

I do take different routes to and from the station - this is partly a matter of staying interested in the journey and also the current security advice for the Cotswolds which suggests you should vary your route to work in order to confuse any surveillance that might be on you.... Ooops got caught up in a film there.

Right, back to reality. The thing I have noticed in the last few days is the amount of road-kill on my journey. We all know the rules or roadkill.. You can't pick it up if you have hit it etc. etc. But there's been so much pheasant on the road to the station in the last few days I have felt seriously tempted - I suppose a problem arises when you pick up the animal, throw it into the boot of your car and motor off to the station. There 2 things that will happen (although there is a 3rd option):

1) The bird is still alive and, when it recovers from it's unconscious state, it starts to make short work of the boot of your car. Feathers and blood everywhere. Imagine the scene as you get back to your car in the evening and find it has been demolished by an ill-tempered pheasant that is just getting ready to have a go at you. (Have you seen Alfred Hitchcock's"The Birds"?).

2) The bird has been dead for a bit too long. You come back to your car at the end of one of those confusing autumn days that starts of at a temperature of 3c and ends at 25c. Your car is like an oven thus providing the maggots and larvae present in the body of the bird a delightful and fruitful breeding ground. So you arrive at your car in your perpetually weary state, open the boot, ready to throw in your bag, coat, umbrella or other assorted crap and you are confronted by a wave of decomposition and a very smelly car. There are maggots and flies making their home in the upholstery, the putrid air has started to dissolve the plastic in the car and there is no way you can use it. I am now beginning to understand what happened when we found a burned out car at Kingham station one morning. Simple answer. Roadkill. No sense in keeping the car. Just burn it.

3) Take the roadkill on the train to work with you. They'll love you in 1st class. Imagine the disruption of a live bird flapping it's way through the carriage. No etiquette for that situation is there. Only possible option, take out sawn off 12 bore from laptop bag and start blasting..... (ok,caught up in a film again) So, the moral of this story is: Don't stop for roadkill on the way to the station.

Just to finish this off, I was driving through the delightful village near Kingham this morning - the place where ducks go to meet other ducks honestly, there's millions of them - mainly mallards if you're interested)and I had to do a full on emergency stop as one mother duck decided that the moment had come to lead her babies across the road in a nice orderly line. She didn't even blink as 2 tonnes of barely controlled car screeched towards her with clouds of smoke emitting from the tyres and the driver braced himself for impact.

Anyway, I managed to stop. They were fine, so was I. End of story.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Nice Things

Visaman's friend joined us on the train today. Apparently the 7.18 is more like catching the train at lunchtime for him. This Jolly decent fellow went to buy us all tea from the buffet which was very nice. Sadly I have lost my thermos flask - left it on the train earlier this week. A part of me wondered if one of the regulars might have noticed and picked it up for me but to be honest I didn't really expect anything. The Lady Wife informed me that the flask was £3 from Wilkinsons so not a great loss... actually the price of 2 cups of tea from the buffet.

Very high quality of announcements today - sadly not the quite brilliant Roy Harley but this chap gavce details of where we could travel to if we wanted to get off the train at places like Oxford and Didcot. The possibilities are almost endless - if you include Reading, they are ACTUALLY endless.

I'm waiting for when we hear the annoucement along the following lines: "Laydees and Gennelmen, we are now approaching Reading. Change here for trains to the south west, south wales, connections to the North and the rail air coach link to Heathrow Airport with connections to Africa, America, South East Asia and mainland Europe. Those passengers wishing to take the Mars Explorer will need to go to Terminal 4 and take the 0900 hours BA flight to Houston from where they may take an onward service into Space."

The other one that I notice at the moment is "Laydees and Gennelmen, we are now on final approach for Reading and we should be at the platform in 2 minutes. Please remain in your seats until the train has come to a complete halt at the platform and the driver has turned off the seatbelt signs. CREW: Doors to manual and cross check."

Hmmmm, anyone missed out on a career in aviation?

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Blackberry - a measure of seniority?

Anyone who gets the train in the morning, or indeed just goes out of their house everyday will come across people using their "berry".
Sounds a bit rude but really these people are chained to their work by an invisible, unbreakable, almost narcotic link.
I used to have one of these things - I also had a mobile phone and a laptop. You can imagine the joy I brought to every train carriage I went in.
But now I have changed jobs and I no longer have a berry or a work mobile and have only just been "upgraded" to laptop. I have never been so happy. I used to really want these gadgets because it made me feel important to work and that they needed me. Not true. They wanted my soul but they didn't need me. Well at least not that much.
(I should say that I did leave the last job by choice... not because they didn't need me. Ok, face saved there.)
So I got to wondering the other morning if having a blackberry is a measure of your importance to your employer. Is the fact that I don't have one - or even a work mobile - a measure of my lowly state?
Perhaps there ought to be some sort of measure - if you start picking up emails on your berry at:
6am - Probably in Sales and wanting to chase down the next new deal.
7am - Senior management - covering one's back by email for the last managerial foul up you made (come on, we've all been there).
8am - Personal users- ie. those who choose to have a blackberry as distinct from those who have one foisted upon them.
10am - CEOs, Chairmen etc. These people have staff for dealing with emails and only really need a berry so they can swap numbers with their chums at their Gentlemens' clubs, Lodge meetings or other gathering. (Note the gross generalisation).
Never - just not trusted enough by work to look after a valuable piece of gear like a berry (this is me).
I don't know if this has any value but it would be interesting to try it out. My point remains the same though... I am free because I don't have one... anymore.

The stuff we carry around

I think most of us at one time or another carry around a load of stuff we just don't need.

This morning I sat opposite a chap who had the thickest wallet I have ever seen in my life... see pic below:

I could see at least 5 credit / debit card things, a LOT of receipts, no money strangely, and probably some photos of significant others. Also, we men are weak willed when it comes to business cards. We carry our own and we collect others. I recently filed mine in a "little black book" but really it has taken me 20 years to do.

I suppose this is the male equivalent of the handbag in which your average woman carries a:

half eaten chocolate bar
lipstick (or in the case of the nice lady opposite me today, an entire make up kit)
nuclear launch codes
mobile phone
iPod or other generic music playing device
address book / diary or PDA or Blackberry
48pc socket set
12v car battery

The list goes on but I thought this chap had a very thick wallet which, as you can see from the photo is about 3 times thicket than his exceptionally cool iBook.

On another point, I noticed this chap's shoes. They had not been polished in a (very long) while. Now I know this is a silly thing to notice but it just served to make this fellow look even cooler. I spend ages polishing my Barkers and I never look cool so maybe I should take a leaf from his book...


A brief rant

By the way, trains were on very poor form today with a very nasty colour scheme from a borrowed "Midlands Mainline" train - honestly felt sick. On way home, the entirity of a 125 had to offload into a 2 carriage sprinter turbo thing.. Intimate doesn't even cover it. I know some people a lot better than I needed to. FGW, what are you up to?

Monday, 8 October 2007

The debate goes on

I'm pleased to note that we can have a nice debate about what is acceptable in terms of one's train of thought (again no pun intended). Normal service will be resumed soon - I just want to put this one to bed.

I would like to refer to my anonymous commenter's new points just to make sure there is no misunderstanding (although the fact that I have to go in to this represents something of a sense of humour failure - sorry to be so blunt)..

Anonymous said...

Interesting response to my comments...just a couple of thoughts?

@Neil...Fairy as in 'gay' or as in something else?#

What Neil is meaning is "gutless" as in, if one is going to make reasonably direct comments, they should be made privately and in person. You might want to throw that one back at me ref. "smelly man" but he is unidentifiable and actually, as readers will note from this blog, I am prone to a bit of exaggeration - the chap merely smelt a little bit of sweat - he'd probably been at work all day and was thus suffering the effects of exertion - something my job sadly does not require.

@Nait...I disagree that there is nothing offensive...Neil thinks it should be ruder (read more offensive??). Are you saying that it is fine to say what comes into our heads? Regardless of whether someone may find it offensive? Also, i didn't say Al was a snob...I said it 'comes across' like that sometimes.

What Neil and Nai are both getting at here is the absurd political correctness we have to tolerate in this country where we cannot be direct or say how things really are. ... criminals are not bad, just misunderstood.... undoubtedly true but not exclusively so.
The point is that we've become so liberal and wishywashy in this country it's almost a crime to tell the truth... e.g. God created the heavens and the earth.......... I should be in court for that one...... Do you see what I mean?

@the another anonymous poster...I know what the real world is like...i live it on a daily basis. What I try and do though is treat others how I would like to be treated.In summary, I just expressed an i said, I know the blog is tongue in cheek and can be hilarious. Sometimes it makes me cringe to read it and other times I laugh...however I feel a tad uncomfortable thinking about:a) what the 'smelly man' would feel like reading it? Would he find it funny? Would it hurt him? Would it make him think about his hygene? I don't know but maybe rather than quietly laughing at him it would be more courageous to think about striking up a friendship and talking to him...maybe even getting to the point where you could raise the issue with him. b) the difference between what we feel/think and what we do/say. Just because we feel/think something about a situation or a person doesn't mean that it is right or that we should verbalise it.

I refer to my earlier point about being prone to exaggeration. I'm glad it makes you laugh - just remember that when I talk about characters I see I am probably pulling together several different attributes from different observations rather than just one person and then adding to it for comedic purposes (ooops my secret's out) Perhaps helps a few other people to have a lifted spirit... or maybe not.

Anyway, there we go...just my own thoughts.

The End.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

A little change

I watched the rugby with a certain amount of delight this weekend - always nice to see England winning and the Australians lose - I say this even though my mother is an Aussie.

So... I was amused to see the BBC website half way through the game when England took the lead and there was a bit of a howling typo... See below...

129:10 very amused.


Feedback on my ramblings

An anonymous writer made the following comment:

"I know that this blog is a little 'tongue in cheek' but the more i read about it the more i think that you come across as being a snobbish, ultra critical, uncaring, upper middle class, judgmental, picky, intolerant and self righteous person. It seems you like to look down your nose at others and judge them at all times whether it is 'smelly man' (how demeaning to describe him as such), women on phone, people with kids...I'm glad that not everyone judges the way you do...maybe, just maybe, you need to live and let live and realise that not everyone is as perfect as you."

I am saddened by this comment as the person clearly doesn't know me very well, much less understand the intention of this blog.

I am probably (almost definitely) all those things that have been said above at some point or other. However, the intention of this blog is actually to reflect what I perceive as the collective train of thought (forgive the pun) of my fellow commuters. This perception is gathered from the snippets of conversation one hears, the looks people give and so on. But here's the point - no one actually says anything to anyone. There is an unwritten code of commuting and I find it hilarious that some people break "the rules".

I admit that the day on which I wrote the article refered to I was probably in a bad mood and one thing is for certain, I am not perfect.

I would refer the commenter to posts about Roy Harley the train manager who, as I have said before is a lovely fellow.

Response over.


Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Had the misfortune to pick the wrong carriage and the wrong seat on the way home tonight. I have joined the ranks of other work harrassed commuters and been issued with a laptop of miniscule size (aka the IBM flea).

I got into carriage B. Unusually for the 17:50 I managed to get a seat straight away and I settled down to do some work - this in response to my boss saying "he wants more from me".

Anyway, I managed to position myself next to "Smelly Man" and within earshot of "Pretty, loud, glamourous, LOUD woman" who did not stop talking on her mobile to her "luscious" friends about the plans for the weekend and "hey, how great is my life, I'm so cool, yeah, great - ok, Ya, I'm on the train. Ya, come over this weekend, it'll be lovely"... etc etc for an hour.

Well actually she did it for 59 mins because just before I got off the train I grabbed her stylish mobile phone from her manicured hand and made her swallow it followed by a dessert of newspaper scraps I had got off the floor.

Smelly man went to sleep so I sprayed him down with Right Guard.



Sunday, 30 September 2007

Roy Harley

I have a favourite Train Manager.. Now, you will know that I detest the title of "Train Manager" but I have come across one man who has embraced change and become the customer friendly face of Last Worst Western.

The announcement on Friday last week was as follows:

"Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen. This is your Train Manager Roy Harley speaking. Welcome to the 7.18 train to London Paddington calling at blah blah blah..."

He's so cheery and polite even when he comes through the carriage to check people's tickets. What a lovely fellow. I will try and get a photo one day.


Wednesday, 26 September 2007

The disciplining of children

Any commuter who catches the 7.18 from Kingham will know that, if they sit in carriages B or C, some very VERY noisy children catch the train from Charlbury to Oxford.

Everyday they make the most incredible racket with no cause or defence. Mostly I turn on my MP3 player and let them get on with it although there has been the odd occasion when I have gone so far as to shoot a very bad look down the train at them and I mentally told them to shut the hell up.

But today was different. I don't know exactly what happened but a fellow walked down the train and, when he reached the nasty horrid noisy children, he said in a loud voice.


Instant silence followed. Brilliant.


Thursday, 20 September 2007

TrainMan and others.

Regular readers will recall my fellow traveller nicknamed "Train Man". He is making the habit of commenting on this blog and to much amusement.

Sadly he gets a different train now but it is nice to have his thoughts reaching us through the Interweb.

The 07.18 club continues to expand. There are now 5 of us that travel to Kingham from the same town:

Ridiculously tall, good looking man

There must be others.


The view from my new improved seat

For those of you who enjoy hearing about how our rail network is developing / crumbling, I have provided below a picture of the view I now get from my seat on the 07.18.

Now I appreciate that the idea is to provide better facilities to customers in the form of improved leg room (which there is), a power socket at every seat (which there is), armrests aplenty and a nice new clean carriage feel.
However, you will notice that you can't actually see anyone. This rather limits my fun on the train as most of my writing is of an observational kind. What am I to do? I suppose we could go a bit WWI and buy a periscope for peering over the top.
Also, the height of these new seats means finding a seat when you get on the train absolutely fraught with danger. Imagine if you will that you have just joined the train and you look down the carriage and you see no-one... Your hear leaps for joy at the prospect of so much space, peace and quiet.
But then you start to walk down the carriage and discover as you were about to leap into an empty pair of seats, that they are already occupied by a sleeping person who has been on the train for a number of hours. "Oh, sorry" you mutter as you exrtricate your bag and your hands from their clothes..
How could this happen? Easy. They were hidden by the new seats that are so tall, the tops of them are often covered in cloud.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Famous People on the Train

A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Portillo on Paddington station. We had a brief chat which concluded with him asking if I worked for the Security Service.

Most amusing. Jolly nice chap actually.

So today I was at Paddington waiting for my train and I saw Lord Douglas Hurd. Felt compelled to go over and have a chat. Very jolly fellow and we had a nice chat. Apparently he is keeping busy. He go the same train as me and was sat in Standard class.

You will notice that there is a blue tinge to the people I meet. That's 'cos I would kick sand in the face of any labour MP.


Sunday, 16 September 2007

More Etiquette for the journey hardened commuter

The Trainfellow would like to apologise for the non-running of this blog. This was due to circumstances beyond our control. The trainfellow once again apologises for this and for any inconvenience caused.

Right, now we've got that out of the way, I must tell you about a most amusing Etiquette incident on the train this week.

It was a very crowded morning due to the train running in what is excitingly called "reverse formation" (Imagine a squadron of fighter jets trying to do that - it would end in tears I'm sure). The effect of reverse formation seems to be to distribute people more evenly around the train, thus making my journey a little less pleasant.

I was stuck across the aisle from the man pictured below:

Sorry about the quality but the point is he was properly asleep - not just a polite little nod off. This was a deep level of sleep where you lose awareness of the facts that follow:

1) You are dribbling and muttering into your quite extensive beard

2) You are snoring so loudly that even the people who are wearing headphones and playing their music very loudly (this includes me) can still hear the snore and in fact the driver has slowed down the train to take account of some "unaccounted vibrations in carriage B". All down to this man's snoring..

3) A little bit of a whiff from the flatulence that has been caught in your trousers since you broke wind near Abergvenny where this train starts off in the morning.

So I hear you ask, how does all of this relate to Etiquette and the commuter - well all of the points above should illustrate why this man needs to go on the commuter course run by First Great Western at Paddington on alternate Mondays...


Friday, 31 August 2007

And I'm back

The silence over the last few weeks has been due to a number of factors - holidays, birth of 1st child, consequent paternity leave and so on. However, I am pleased to be back and noting the interesting ways of my fellow commuters.

Today I had an interesting observation as I caught a very quiet 7.18 to Paddington.

A chap in a nice pin stripe suit (who incidentally was wearing brilliant socks - the sort of thing I aspire to - they were pink and blue stripes) expressed some suprise that the train had turned up on time..
I have him a questioning look and it turns out that the automated train mis-information system had said the train would be 20 mins late. He was then suprised when the train showed up on time.

I refer to a previous post - I commented on the time machine nature of the train and I am glad that someone else has finally experienced what I have been going on about.

No stories of "train managers" to amuse you this week although I did sit next to a group of platform staff from Oxford who had just been on a training day somewhere. They were very dull.


Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Bored and no commuting

TTF is on a little break due to the fact that his baby is maybe on the way... Getting bored waiting for it to arrive but I'm sure that's not a feeling I'll ever have again....

Updates will follow.

Saturday, 11 August 2007


Recent weeks have left me with little to say about my fellow commuters or indeed about our friends at Network Rail and First Great Western. The holiday season tends to put me in a less cynical mood.

I do have basic hatred of the idea of going to work in August - it just seems wrong. The French don't work in August. Absolutely brilliant idea. Anyway, I took a couple of pictures of the view from my sun lounger. This is the best one:TTF

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Trainfellow in a car

My fellow commuter VISAman gave me a call the other day. We have both been inconvenienced by the fact that our train line was washed away by an inconsiderate and unhelpful body of water. VISAman lives quite close and has like me, been without running water for about a week...

Anyway... VISAman and I shared the car to Reading. Very pleasant journey which was not punctuated by any of the usual utterings from a "Train Manager". In fact it did occur to me as we drove past such places as Swindon and Newbury that we ought to provide our own voice over to the journey - sadly we didn't get round to it.

However, the journey to work in a car raised a whole new set of questions about commuting and how you interact....

I think it's ok to have a conversation with the person in the car next to you - no rules about that. But how to do you relate to your fellow road users that you see every day or the chap who you see walking to work at about the same place everyday - or if you are late, he is a bit too far down the road...

I'd appreciate any thoughts you may have on this. A whole new set of etiquette.


Friday, 27 July 2007

Commuting by car

My dear blog readers,

Due to the flooding that has been the talk of Gloucestershire in recent days, I have been unable to use my normal 7.18 train. I have in fact been reduced to driving to the office although I have managed to blag a car parking space which has made all the difference to what would otherwise be an uneventful day...

I have very little excitement to bring you from a quick drive down the M4 - I could rant about the stupidity of drivers who sit 2 feet from someone else's bumper or about the panic braking (both those issues are related) but actually I'm pleased to tell you I found a photo on my phone...

This is of one of the fine gentlemen I gave a lift to at the height of the floods. Poor chap had to walk through a flood in his brand new brogues. He later commented that it seemed to have really helped break them in.

Picture also illustrates the crowded nature of our journey... That's it really.


Sunday, 22 July 2007

The Rule of Getting Found Out

I was talking to VISAman the other day and he has come up with some interesting thoughts on the increasing chances of getting found out, the closer you get to your destination.

This is born out of hearing people on the train (generally contractors or an inexperienced Exec) talking loudly about this customer or that customer who is a complete arse.
Alternatively they might be talking about a severe system problem which really no-one else should hear about for business protection reasons.

The idea is that, when you are travelling to work, the closer you get to your office (or customer's office) the more likely it is there will be someone within earshot who will either know you or know your customer or indeed, be your customer.

Moral of the story, keep your trap shut on the train and don't make business calls because you are probably damaging your business.

Also, it's so very annoying and it doesn't make you look big and important to talk loudly on a phone on the train.



Following the floods, it looks like my normal train route will be out of action for about 2 weeks. Therefore, I have decided to give some pictures from my journeys whilst I think of something else to say:

One does come across some interesting sights on the train. These pics are to illustrate the broad church that is the collection of people who take the same train as me.

Yes, that's right. Blue hair cut in a silly pattern.

The 20-7-7 Floods

We've all been affected in one way or another by the amazing weather of the last few days. Some of it has excited me and some of it left me feeling desperately sad for the people who have had to leave their homes.

I left the office just after 4pm on Friday having had a look at the travel websites and detesting the idea of spending a night in Reading without really having to...

Phase 1
I got to the station and found it was not as packed as I feared and managed to get a train to Oxford. Got chatting to a couple of very nice chaps who were also trying to figure out how to get home. We agreed to stick together in a typically British way and get through the time of adversity - all very 2nd World War.

On arrival at Oxford it became clear that there would be no onward travel.

There was an amusing comment made by one of my new friends who said of one of the slightly unhelpful and bemused Network Rail staff: "He was useless - probably a bit thick. He's about 60 years old and he's still an "Assistant Despatcher".. I laughed out loud.

Phase 2
We were joined at Oxford by a decent fellow called Tony. He was going in the same direction so we pooled our resources and went to find a cab - not at the station either because there was an enormous queue there. We wandered into the centre of Oxford and stopped a black cab and told him to get us to Kingham... After some negotiation, it seems that the terms of our agreement with him were:

1) We give him all the money up front.
2) If he comes across a flood on the way there, he'll kick us out in the middle of nowhere. (His words: "If flood, I drop".

So of we went. It took a while but we got within a 1/4 of a mile of Kingham - we walked the rest and that included one of my new friends getting his brand new expensive brogues wet which apparantly helped soften them up.

Phase 3
We picked up my 4x4 at Kingham and this is where the fun really started. Getting out of Kingham was really very difficult because, having got through the flood at the station we were turned back by the villagers who quite understandably did not want:
a) lots of abandonded, flooded cars left in their village
b) did not want the wash of the vehicles going into their homes.

So we made our way round somehow or other. It turned out that 2 of the chaps I had picked up were RAF people who typically devised a system for assessing the floods in front of us on a case by case basis. There was a scale of 1 -5 Severity and we'd make a decision based on the assessment.

Severity 1 - bit of a puddle really. Nothing much to worry about. Have a quick look at it if necessary but carry on. Distance of flood - 20 feet.
Severity 2 - Maybe an abaonded car in the water. Some cars turning back, some making it through. Might be a current of water. Put the vehicle into 4x4 mode and go slowly through the water taking care to keep the revs high in case something unexpected happens - sudden dip in the road etc. Distance of flood up to 75 feet.
Severity 3 - No cars passing. 4x4s and lorries only. Water looks to be up to 3 feet deep and the distance of the flood is significant. Strong current going across the road. Some vehicles abandoned. Vehicle in 4x4 mode, high revs, slow approach so as to minimise wash and prevent water from coming over the bonnet and never let the vehicle stop moving.
Severity 4 - Tractors only. Stranded cars only just visible in the water. Turn back.
Severity 5 - Boats only. This is where you see cars being washed away by the current and there are rescue boats out and helicopters overhead.

Using this assessment tool was actually very useful and we negotiated many floods - Sadly, when we got to Moreton in Marsh where we were going to let Tony pick up his car, we discovered that the entire station car park was under water along with his BMW Z4. To be fair, if it hadn't been for Tony and his navigating and local knowledge, we might not have made it home that night.

Moreton in Marsh was a Severity 5.

There was, in all the significant floods we went through, only 1 moment when I was really worried.. We were in a Severity 3 flood and just passing an abandoned vehicle when I let the revs dip a bit so I had less speed. This also turned out to be the deepest part of the water. I think we might have been quite close to losing power. Anyway, I hoofed it out by giving it all the power I could and we made it. Brakes didn't feel so clever though - Had to dry them out a bit.

Met up with Wing Commander Chris's wife at Northleach. He and Squadron Leader Jon completed their journey via that route. I'm not kidding - these chaps were excellent and very good company. And best of all they gave me a very nice salute as I drove away.


Saturday, 14 July 2007

New person on the train

I mentioned a few weeks ago about a chap I spoke to at the station. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of trains and stations. He has something to do with railways. (David, I know you read this page sometimes - you are henceforth know as TrainMan.)

Here is his picture that I sneaked the other day: (Sorry about the quality but undercover photography really is quite difficult.

Anyway, TrainMan has shared with me some truly bizarre (and really quite geaky facts). I have shared some of them below for your delight and delectation:

1) There is a branch line south of Oxford.... This is (apparantly) the Cowley Works line built in 1972. (Honestly this is what TrainMan told me).

2) The signs at Kingham and Charlbury stations used to be painted different colours - it apparantly used to be black on white rather than white on black as illustrated below:

This level of observation is a little beyond me.

3) At Oxford station, there is apparantly a building just behind platform 2 which has a special window in it. If, on a cold winter's night you are waiting for your train, you can press your little face up to the window and you will be able to see the status boards of all the trains on that bit of line. The excitement is almost unbearable.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Newspaper Etiquette

Conversations with some of my fellow passengers and general observance of others has brought me to document the rules of newspaper reading on the train.

So here goes:
1) If you do not have a newspaper, do not read the person opposite's. They have spent good money on it they want to have a nice new unread virginal newspaper. Not one that's been drawled over by you.
2) If you catch somone reading your newspaper, catch their eye and make them back off. (All unspoken obviously).
3) If the person opposite puts down their newspaper and they look as if they have finished with it, wait at least 20 mins and up to 30 depending on the individual concerned. During this period carry out thorough surveillance of the owner to see if they may be amenable to an approach for the paper.
Once this phase is complete, use the following expression: "Sorry, excuse me. May I read your newspaper?" The response will almost always be "Yes, no problem". To this you must respond "Thanks very much indeed".
Following this, revert to utter silence as you read their paper even though you are slightly annoyed that they have completed the crossword incorrectly.
4) If you have bought a multi-section newspaper, you are at risk of being approached by an undesirable group of travellers (and I mean you to read as much into that as you possibly can) who will approach you and ask to read one of the unread sections of the paper before you have had a chance even to breath.
This is unacceptable and such people should be dragged into the vestibule by their filthy matted locks and beaten with the newspaper until they are unconcious.
My thanks to "GuardianMan" who related the story from which I drew part 4. You know who you are.

A number of things

I have a number of things I am itching to talk about on this here blog... However, this week has been stupid busy so I have not had a chance to fully document my thoughts. I promise I will get round to it shortly.

Items on their way:

1. Newspaper etiquette
2. The odd couple
3. The Kingham Time Machine
4. Etiquette of emotion
5. Professional betrayal
6. The Train Expert.
7. Early Sleeping man

There will be more...

Monday, 9 July 2007

I shall return to work tomorrow after a bout of sickness that left me feeling suprised! I never get ill and so having 4.5 days off ill is completely unheard of. I shall spare you the other details.

Wish me well in finding new inspiration on the train tomorrow.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Trainfellow becomes Bedfellow

I've been off work for 3 and a half days with a really quite nasty virus. As a result, my usual torrent of observations has been without it's inspiration.

Some have described my illness as man-flu. This is unfair. Can't be bothered to go through the symptoms...

I hope to be back up to speed soon.

Oh but while I remember, I saw Tea Man on Monday. (Remember him - Ginger and Lemon tea - he's the one who disapproves of milk in Earl Gray). He has a colleague to sit with now. This man is probably one of the most miserable dour looking people I have ever seen - and the 7.18 has a fair range of candidates for this award. I wonder if he might be Scottish he looks so miserable.

I hate to think what he'd be like in a meeting... "Er, Jim could you do this for me?"
"Go stuff yourself, I'm miserable"
"Er Jim, that's not very helpful is it?"
"Is this the face of someone who cares?"

etc etc.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Train spotting....

I found this genius vid on You tube. Short, simple and for me, laugh out loud funny. Filmed in Gloucester by the sound of the accents...

Today I are mostly off sick

Got up at the usual time this morning and attempted to go to work. However, this attempt was cut short by arriving at the station to the sound of the fella "Leon" who works there (very nice chap actually) telling us the train would be 1/2 an hour late. Gave up and went home and crawled back in to bed with my man flu for company.

So today I am going to draw upon something I thought about last week.

The "train manager" came on the pa system and actually used it with a certain amount of skill - something that is lacking among many of his "management" colleagues. You could hear every word he said without it either:

a) Making your ears bleed
b) Shattering the windows and making children and adults alike cry.
c) The system just cutting out because the chap has held the mic so close to his face it's more of a throat mic and the thing gives up because it is inundated with saliva.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the "train manager" henceforth know as "the interesting train manager" came on the intercom thing and said the following:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, thanks for travelling with 1st Great Western. (Blah blah blah). Now, I'd like to have a chat with you about some of the short platforms the train will be calling at".

Maybe it's just me but I love the idea of the train manager going from person to person having a nice interesting chat about the lengths of platforms and which carriages to use to alight from the train.. All very pastoral and pleasent. Needless to say he never showed up but I appreciated the effort he made to speak properly and to make his ordinary announcement a bit more interesting.

I've heard from VISAman that there is a chap on a later train who waxes lyrical about the various sights to be seen from the train - the dreamy spires of Oxford, the winding lanes of the Cotswolds, the reminder of Hell inspired by Satan... - that is Didcot....

Another website below for all you train geeks out there - this looks like a great day out:

Monday, 2 July 2007

The Monastic Order of Commuters

It struck me this morning as I made my way to work (with a nasty cold that I shared with the rest of the carriage, and indeed took my time to spread through the train as I made my way to the buffet) that the silence on the train is deafening. Only the squeak of the carriages and the unintelligible babble of the "train manager" punctuates the silence.

Where else would you get a few hundred people gathered together in one place and there to be absolute silence? A monastary perhaps. And this isn't the only similarity.

1) Monks get up early in the morning. So do commuters.
2) Monks often spend a lot of time in silence... See above.
3) Monastries encourage the rhythms and routines of life. So does Network Rail - using a timetable.
4) Monastaries serve basic and often tasteless food. So do 1st Great Western Trains
5) Monks spend a lot of time reflecting on God and in prayer. Commuters plead with God that the train will be on time.

This list could go on for a long time... But I think it would be fun if the station manager handed out monks habits for all commuters and the PA system on the train played back track by Enigma or some such gregorian chanting.

While I was looking for photos of monks and trains, I came across the truly wonderful website: Never have I seen so much web space dedicated to something so truly innocent and quite possibly dull.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Bluetooth woman

I made some notes the other day on some of the people around me on the way home. The woman I mention below was the most "exciting":

I sat down opposite a rather large lady who was wearing a bluetooth headset - she wasn't driving the train and in fact her hands were anything other than full - she was doing nothing but she stil had this headset on. No one rang her. My suggestion, stop looking like a wannabe with no friends... Loose the headset girl.

I've seen many people around in the same situation as above who have their hands manifestly free but who are wearing a headset... Why? Because they think they're in the SAS.

In this woman's defence, I should say she had the most incredible set of finger nails - decorated in the digital equivalent of the Sistine chapel.

I'm not alone.

Went out for a brief pint with one of my new neighbours. Very nice chap and his girlfriend who is a Doctor in London.

We chatted and it turns out she gets the train / tube in to work everyday and has done so for about a year. She sees the same people on the train every day. She has never spoken to or smiled in recognition of any of the people she shares a train with.

British commuter etqiuette is going strong. It's not just me you know... I'm not being paranoid. You're just not allowed to speak on the train.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Oh my word....

Today it took 5 hours to get home from Reading. Sadly this was due to someone jumping in front of a train. The resulting chaos was just mad.... every train going west from London and Reading was late or just cancelled.

It turned out that a mate of mine was on the train that ran over the person on the line. His journey was even worse than mine.

The good thing was that 3 of us managed to meet up on the way home and I gave them a lift at the end - ordered a curry and we were on our way home to eat it and we came across a bloke who'd fallen of his bike. He was by his own admission "very pissed" but not an unpleasant drunk. Anyway, we sorted him out and got him into the ambulance and finally got back home to eat curry about 10pm.

So here are the stats:

Train on way to work - 1/2hr late.
Train on way home - 1 1/2 hours late following 2 prior cancellations.

Saw some of the usual commuting crowd and had a bit of a laugh with them...

I've met a new person on the train by the way. I have yet to assign a name to him but he seems like a decent fellow although he does have an unusal knowledge of the highways and byways of the UK which seem to get him from A to B very quickly indeed. More of this later.. I think there could be a rich vein of humour..